The inside of our mouth is often veiled in mystery. Without those tiny dental mirrors to give us a better look at the back, it can be hard to actually see what’s really going on in there.
Well, there are a lot of things going on it turns out! Especially considering there are more than 500 species of bacteria living in our mouths. Most are good guys, but some aren’t. And because bad bacteria can do real harm, you’ll want to get rid of the bad guys, fast.
Like most illness and disease, prevention is key. And when it comes to oral health, keeping our teeth healthy really boils down to a few simple things: brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist on a regular basis. Otherwise, we could be opening ourselves up to any number of oral health issues, like the 8 we’ve listed below.
1. Bad breath
Some minty toothpaste or a gargle of mouthwash is often all you need to cure a case of bad breath. And it doesn’t hurt to go one step further and remove any odour-causing plaque buildup with a good floss. But your body could also be trying to tell you something: You may be experiencing too much stress (which leads to dry mouth, “a hotbed for bacteria”) or you might not be drinking enough water. If you are suffering from chronic bad breath, the implications could be more serious. For example, kidney and liver disease can make your breath smell like fish or rotten eggs, respectively.
2. Bleeding gums
Bleeding gums can feel scarier than they really are. If your gums bleed on rare occasion (e.g., after buying a new toothbrush), it’s unlikely a cause for concern. It’s bleeding that occurs consistently, for several days, that you should be watching out for. If prolonged bleeding is accompanied by pain in the tooth or gum, this could be a sign of gum disease. Book an appointment with your dentist to get it checked out.
3. Bruxism (grinding your teeth)
If you grind your teeth occasionally, then you’re just like everybody else. But if you mysteriously suffer from recurring headaches, pain in your jaw, or chipped teeth, you may be persistently grinding your teeth in your sleep. If it’s confirmed you’re grinding on the regular, could it be that you are experiencing more stress lately? If not, it can also be due to abnormalities in your mouth, like missing or crooked teeth. If your noisy nighttime habit is causing you discomfort, the best way to treat it is with a mouth guard. Speak to your dentist about next steps.
4. Canker sores
Canker sores may be painful, but they are neither serious nor contagious. While no one knows for sure why these appear, there are a number of suspected triggers: From an allergic reaction to the bacteria in our mouth, to the type of toothpaste you use, to emotional stress, it can be tricky to determine the real culprit. If your canker sores are larger than normal, recurring, or persistent, something more serious may be lurking. If this is case, it is recommended that you make an appointment with your doctor or dentist.
Cavities occur when the plaque buildup on your teeth releases an acid that eats away at your pearly whites. The most common indicator of a cavity is a sore tooth that won’t go away, so watch out for pain that lasts several days and make a dentist appointment if this sounds like you. But don’t wait for discomfort to catch up with your dentist. If you make it a habit to see your dental team every 6 months, there’s a good chance they will catch a cavity before you even know it’s there.
6. Receding gums
Not only can receding gums lead to a less attractive smile, they can also result in more serious health issues, like cavities (due to bacteria forming in the newly formed “pockets”) and even tooth loss. Want to avoid gum recession? We’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that it is often irreversible. The good news? It is super easy to prevent. Simply make sure you are using a soft toothbrush and are brushing with gentle, short strokes—as opposed to back and forth vigorously.
We’ve all been there. A sip of cold water resulting in tooth pain that seems to travel from the outside, in. If you’re suffering from tooth sensitivity, there could be a number of reasons—some easier to treat than others—for your pain. Are you consuming a lot of food and drink that is high in acidity? Brushing too vigorously? Grinding your teeth? If you’re not sure what the cause is, start by cutting down on acidic drinks, like wine, pop or lemon water, and foods, like pickles and oranges… and grab yourself a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth while you’re at it! If that doesn’t help, speak with your dentist about applying desensitizing agents, like fluoride varnish or plastic resins, to create a barrier on your teeth.
8. Staining / Discolouration
While smoking is a main culprit, also to blame for staining and discolouration are drinks like coffee, tea and red wine. And while we do recommend quitting smoking (for a plethora of health reasons), we aren’t telling you to give up your morning pick-me-up. If you need your daily caffeine fix but are worried about discolouration, opt for coffee which is lower in tannins. Or, keep a toothbrush at work so you can brush your teeth after your cup of tea. No toothbrush? The next best thing is to rinse your mouth out after a cuppa. And using a straw when consuming drinks that are high in tannins is a great way to avoid your teeth altogether. If your teeth are already discoloured, talk to your dentist about whitening options. Or stay tuned for our upcoming blog post on the topic!
If you are experiencing any of the 8 oral health issues above, don’t feel too bad about it—they’re common enough! That said, it doesn’t hurt to make an appointment with your dentist at the first sign that something is off. That’s the best way to avoid more serious health issues, more discomfort, and more time in the dentist’s chair!